Story: Benjamin Makafui Attipoe, Volta Regional Correspondent, TV Africa
A 30-year old Freelance Journalist was on Thursday morning of 28th March, 2019 allegedly assaulted by three Community Police Assistants (CPAs) of the Youth Employment Agency (YEA) at Akatsi in the Volta Region. The victim, Wisdom Niidza had his lacost t-shirt partly torn on him during the scuffle that ensued between him and the CPAs on the Akatsi Secondary Technical School (AKAST) road.
The incident followed accusations by the CPAs of the journalist allegedly taking shots of them while performing what the police described as their ‘legitimate duties’ during a roadblock mounted at the Charismatic Evangelistic Ministry (CEM) Church junction. The incident resulted not only in the forceful seizure of Wisdom’s mobile phone but also the deployment of a ‘pepper spray’ by one of the female CIDs on some of the church members who according to them were trying to rescue their colleague church member and the journalist from the hands of the CPAs.
Narrating his ordeal to the media at Akatsi , Mr. Niidza explained that he arrived at the church premises with his colleagues around 9.30am for a youth event. While waiting for the start of the programme, he and a few other friends stood under a tree as usual outside the main church structure.
According to Mr. Niidza, one of the CPAs approached him a few minutes later and accused him of taking footages of their activities at the checkpoint which was about 15 metres from where they stood. After some explanation to the CPA and subsequent denial of the accusation, the officer went back to base only to return shortly with two other colleague CPAs who also insisted that they saw him taking shots of their roadblock activities with his phone, an accusation he again vehemently denied.
Mr. Niidza stated that the three ordered him to hand-over his phone to them. He however rejected the order and rather insisted that the CPAs escorted him to the District Police Commander for the matter to be resolved. He said before he could say jack, the CPAs began manhandling him, resulting in his alleged assault, the forceful seizure of his phone and the subsequent tearing of parts of his lacost t-shirt in the ensuing scuffle. According to the victim, the timely intervention of some of the church members saved him from further beatings in the hands of the CPAs.
Mr. Niidza disclosed that one of the female CIDs who met the scene whiles on her way to the office, ‘deployed’ from her handbag what many residents and witnesses described as ‘pepper spray’ and sprayed it into the crowed with the aim of dispersing the church members who were rescuing the journalist from the CPAs.
Speaking to the media during a meeting with the District Police Commander on the issue, the police denied assaulting the victim and forcefully taking his phone from him. The Station Officer, Chief Inspector Paul Dwumah told journalists at the meeting that the police mounted the roadblock on the said Thursday morning in order to apprehend unregistered motorbikes that were being used in recent times to commit a lot of crimes in the area.
According to Mr. Dwumah, the roadblock which was mounted on Akatsi Market day with some long benches and a rectangular shaped metal bar, was part of their routine itinerary as police, insisting that Mr. Niidza took shots of the CPAs, a move he described as unprofessional on the part of the journalist.
Mr. Niidza who was issued with a police medical form after the incident, has since submitted the report to the police after attending medical check-up at the Akatsi District Hospital. One of the female members of the CEM congregation, Rejoice Gokah who complained of some pains in her eyes apparently due to the ‘pepper spray’ returned her police medical form to the police, saying she could not afford the Two Hundred and Fifty Ghana Cedis (Ghc250.00) being charged for such a medical examination at the Akatsi District Hospital. A few other members of the Church who were hit by the ‘pepper spray’ solution, also refused to pick up police medical forms for medical check-up due to what they described as the high charges as well as for fear of intimidation by the police.
Meanwhile, the journalist has returned to the Akatsi Police Station on Friday to write his statement after which he is expected to formally lodge an assault complaint against the three CPAs.